Thursday, August 22, 2013

Day 9: Meet Michelle Ule, author of The Gold Rush Christmas

 Today's author--Michelle Ule--answers our 12 questions and gives us a peep into her novella The Gold Rush Christmas. (You can read a brief synopsis of The Gold Rush Christmas in Monday's post.)

1. What made you write about your period in time?

When I heard the title of this collection, I tried to think of a period of time that would be appealing to readers. I figured many writers would write about the Oregon Trail. I remembered, though, how fascinated I was by the Alaskan Gold Rush stories when my family traveled to Alaska a number of years ago. In particular, I remembered that horrific photo of the line of men climbing over Chilkoot Pass. I'd thought I'd like to write a story about a family caught in that line, stepping out on December 25 to reflect on Christmas. My story didn't quite turn out that way!

2. How is Christmas celebrated in your family and what effect did it have on your writing this story?

    My husband is a retired naval officer, and we've celebrated Christmas in a number of different cultures. We liked to use aspects of the local customs when we lived in different spots--Christmas in Hawaii, for example, included a creche made of a coconut shell. While composing The Gold Rush Christmas, I tried to find an element of Alaskan culture people would recognize but which could help tell the Christmas story better. I found a fantastic one!

3. What research did you do to authenticate Christmas celebrations in your story?

    My story includes a Christmas totem pole. I explored the Internet for items for the pole, and discovered a pastor/missionary in Alaska had actually made one! We corresponded and I bought a small model of that Christmas totem pole. He asked me to make sure I used his description because he'd spent years ensuring it was culturally accurate.

4. When you dreamed up your story idea, what came first, the time period, the story, the location?

    The location. I wanted to write about Alaska.

5. What was the "germ" of your story idea and how did you flesh it out?

    I wanted to write about the Gold Rush and I liked the idea of a pair of twins and the boy next door sailing to Alaska and accidentally ending up on a ship filled with gold seekers. I did a little more research, had to come up with a reason why they'd be sailing, and turned it into a quest for a missing missionary father.
6. Would you like to have been there?

    No. The conditions were awful, the con men were terrible and many people suffered.

7. What aspects of your characters are reflected in yours?

    My brother is very tall and pushy. He likes to order me around and I've often resented it.  :-)

8. Have you been to the locations in which your story is set?

    Yes, my family sailed on the Alaskan ferry to Skagway out of Washington 22 years ago. I pulled on our experiences and the stories we enjoyed while traveling there.

9. What surprised you the most about your story?

    The wonderful surprising story of how God worked in the prostitutes of Skagway! I incorporated it into my tale.

10. Would you have made a good pioneer?

    While I am the mother of three Eagle scouts and have spent a lot of time camping, I'm a coward, I don't sleep well on the ground and I don't like to be dirty. So, no.  :-)

11. Were any of your ancestors pioneers? If so, where and when?

    Many. I'm in awe of the strength of character they exhibited. Most were on the north American continent by 1701 and moved west until they reached the Pacific Ocean. I'm thankful for their sacrifices. My first book, a family history, is called Pioneer Stock in their honor.

12. What spiritual themes did you deliberately incorporate into your story? Which ones did you discover later?

    I've always loved the story of Nehemiah and the famous line "I am doing a good work and I cannot come down." I liked the idea of someone going off on an adventure and sacrificing for their family, but being determined to stay in that work even when things became difficult. Later, I learned much about the fortitude of a young man wanting to prove himself, even when he discovered his own prejudices. I love how even a seminary graduate needed to be reminded, gently, that he sometimes needed to be discomforted to do the job God called him to do. I love the spiritual growth going on in The Gold Rush Christmas.

You can find Michelle at:

Have you entered my Pioneer Christmas Giveaway yet?
You can choose any of the options below to enter (tweet, make a comment, "like" my FB page, follow me on Twitter) or you can do them all! The more you do, the more times you're entered into the Giveaway. Just follow the prompts below. 
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Copy of A Pioneer Christmas Collection signed by all 9 authors!

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  1. Hi Anna,
    I entered your giveaway and not sure where I was supposed to comment, so I'll do it here. First of all, I am finding all of these stories fascinating. I'm a huge fan of historical fiction, so I can't wait to read them. As for the question, "Would you make a good pioneer" No, I don't think so. I enjoy my creature comforts way too much, like hot showers, flavored coffee and a clean bed. Thanks Anna for giving us such insight on all these stories and authors.

    1. This is the perfect place to comment, Kristi - thank you! And I'm "um-hum"ing to the idea of clean beds, flavored coffee, and hot showers. Add to that air conditioning (which you probably don't use much in Alaska) and an iPhone and that pretty much sums up why I would never survive as a pioneer. So fun to see you here, Kristi! Thanks!


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